A New Twist

40 years. I recently heard Ina Garten say that she's been making her Thanksgiving cranberry sauce the same way for 40 years. I've been making her recipe for the past six years, and you can read my adaptation on it here. It's really good, so I see why she sticks to making it the same way every year. Why mess with tradition?

Except, I like to mess with tradition, just a little. This year I thought I'd experiment with a new flavor. I'll probably stick with Ina's recipe for Thanksgiving Day to appease some of the older folks in the family. And, I'll enjoy it - like I said, it's good! But, I had a chance to do a mini Thanksgiving dinner ahead of time and I decided to make a Pear Ginger Cranberry Sauce. I was not disappointed with this change.

I happen to love fresh ginger. When Roy and I go to sushi we ask for a couple extra little bowls of the pickled ginger. And I add it to kale and apple juice to give it a spicy kick. It's supposed to be super anti-inflammatory, so sometimes, when I'm feeling achy, I grate up a teaspoon or two, swallow it all at once and down it with a big glass of water. Now, I'm not saying everyone one needs to do that (unless you are a huge ginger fan like me). But, if you like a subtle kick to your cranberry sauce, then try this recipe this year. Adapted from America's Test Kitchen.

Pear Ginger Cranberry Sauce

12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 cup granulated sugar, plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 pears, peeled, cored and cut into half-inch pieces
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 large orange

Place the cranberries, 1 cup sugar, cinnamon, pears, and ginger in medium saucepan. Zest the orange and place zest in saucepan. Squeeze juice of the orange into a liquid measuring cup. Add water to the orange juice until it measures 3/4 cup of total liquid. Pour the orange juice/water mixture into the saucepan. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower to medium and continue to cook for 10 minutes until cranberries have brown down, stirring occasionally. Halfway through cooking, carefully taste the mixture. If you would like it sweeter add another tablespoon or two or three of sugar. (The sweetness will depend on how ripe and sweet your pears were, hence why you may need to add more). Cool in pan, then transfer to a glass container to store in refrigerator. (It will thicken as it cools).

Makes approximately 3 cups.

Can be made up to one week ahead. Store in air-tight container in refrigerator. 

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you! I'm so grateful for all my friends and readers and hope you have a wonderful holiday.


Ahoy Matey

Miles will be dressing up as a pirate this Halloween. There have been a lot of "Ahoy Matey!" and "Shiver me timbers!" type of statements coming out of his mouth all month. He's even been singing "yo ho, yo ho, yo ho, yo ho, yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me!" (I guess he really likes saying "yo ho"). Tomorrow he'll be dressing up for his party at school, which of course he's super excited for. And tomorrow night we'll carve our pumpkins at home in preparation for our chili and cinnamon rolls on Friday night.

To get our pumpkins, we made our annual trek to Tanaka Farms last weekend. We love this huge pumpkin patch, and Miles had so much fun running up and down the rows of pumpkins, climbing on hay bales, and petting animals in the petting zoo. They also have a cannon out of which they shoot pumpkins onto the hillside. It's pretty crazy watching the pumpkins soar into the air and then smash against the hill. Miles never got tired of watching it.

So, as a we prepare to celebrate Halloween, I wanted to share my recipe for spiced cider with you. It's super easy, and I love the way my house smells when I make it. I'll serve this with my cinnamon rolls on Friday night; it would also be good with other fall treats like my pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, or pumpkin cake. Even if you're not having company, you could make it for yourself to enjoy in the evenings by reheating the leftovers in a mug in the microwave for a few days (strain the liquid if you plan on saving it). Either way, I hope you make this soon. Have a great Halloween!

Spiced Apple Cider

2 quarts apple cider or apple juice
1 large orange
4 cinnamon sticks
10 whole cloves

Using a vegetable peeler, peel large strips of zest off of the orange. Place in a large saucepan along with the cider, cinnamon sticks, and cloves. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Turn heat down to low and simmer, with lid on but cracked, for one hour to allow flavors to blend. Continue to simmer on very low heat until you are ready to serve.

Serves 12-16


More Pumpkin

In case you made the pumpkin bread from my last post, and are wondering what to do with the pumpkin puree you didn't use, pumpkin cookies are your answer.


I started making these delightful little cookies (adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis) last year and must have made them about half a dozen times that fall. They are spiced with allspice and cinnamon and get a great chewy texture from oats. I like to mix in cranberries and pecans, but you could do raisins or other types of nuts. I love that it's now pumpkin season so I can enjoy these cookies for the next couple of months. Oh, and they best part - not only are they tasty, but they are also vegan, which means you don't need to feel bad if you scarf down a few.

Pumpkin Cookies with Cranberries and Pecans

1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup raw sugar (such as Sugar in the Raw or Turbinado)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, oats, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl whisk together the sugar, pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, syrup, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined. Stir in the cranberries and pecans.

Drop batter in generous tablespoons onto the prepared sheets, spacing at least 1 inch apart. Using wet fingertips flatten each cookie into a 1.5 inch round. Bake until the edges are lightly browned and cookies are slightly firm to the touch, about 17-20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking. Transfer to rack to cool completely.

Makes approximately 24 cookies. 

Note: Can be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. 



Summer came and went in an instant this year. I've been extremely busy (more on that in an upcoming post), and therefore very absent from this blog for a while.

However, today I decided to usher in fall by doing some baking. Yes, a heat wave is going to hit southern California for the next few days. But, my Halloween decorations are up, and as soon as the calendar reads "October" I have a deep need for all things pumpkin.

Last year I made a pumpkin cake. Today I wanted something quick and easy and less sweet. Something that could work for breakfast, or a snack or even after dinner. Enter pumpkin bread.

Miles already ate two pieces after it was cool. Maybe I'll let him take a piece to school tomorrow. Yes, my little man stared preschool!

Pumpkin Bread

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (grate it fresh yourself, if possible)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk (I used almond)
3/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and all spices. In a large bowl whisk together granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Whisk in pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 the milk, then another 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the remaining milk, and finally the remaining flour mixture. Fold in nuts if using. Do not over mix.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Serves 8-12.


It's in the Banana Stand

I can never think of frozen bananas without thinking of Arrested Development. It has to be one of my favorite shows of all time (the first three seasons that is, not the abysmal Netflix 4th season). I fell in love with it when it first came out in 2003, and Roy and I still quote lines from it.

Naturally, when I made these frozen bananas last week we talked about the show again. We kept saying "it's in the banana stand" referring to George telling Michael that there was always money in the banana stand. (Michael later sets it on fire assuming his father means they'd collect insurance money, when in reality there was $250,000 lining with walls of the stand). Much of the show's hilarity ensues around the banana stand. If you're thinking of all those funny moments, and need to log off and go back and watch the show right now, I understand.

Also, I've just heard that the cast is preparing to do a 5th season. If that's the case, I will watch because I am such a fan. I hope that they can get past how bad the 4th season was and go back to the magic of the original seasons. If they do, I'll make a batch of these and happily power through the season.

Chocolate Dipped Frozen Bananas

4 firm but ripe bananas
2 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped, toasted almonds
Flaked sea salt, such as Maldon (optional)
8 lollipop or Popsicle sticks

Cut each banana in half and insert stick into cut side. Place on a plate and freeze for a few hours or overnight, until firm.

Melt chocolate chips in wide shallow bowl in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until melted.

Roll banana in melted chocolate, using the back of a spoon to spread the chocolate evenly over the banana and scrape off excess. Immediately sprinkle with almonds and sea salt, if using. Be sure to work quickly as the chocolate will set in about 10 seconds since the banana is already frozen. Return banana to plate and repeat with other banana halves. Enjoy right away or return to freezer.

Note: Can be made up to a week in advance. Cover plate with plastic wrap. 


Sweet Sauce

I was first introduced to hoisin sauce by my old roommate. She used to make Vietnamese spring rolls, and the best part about them was the dipping sauce she made - hoisin sauce and peanut butter, thinned with a little water, and finished with chopped peanuts. It is so good and so easy.

I used to think that hoisin was something you had to buy in a jar in the asian section of the grocery store. That is, until I got Gwyenth Paltrow's It's All Good and saw a homemade version. And let me tell you, it is good. So good in fact, that I make it a few times a month. It's better than what you get in the store, and better for you - no mysterious ingredients and preservatives.

It's great on grilled meat or tofu, or mixed with peanut butter to make a great sauce for spring rolls as I mentioned above. I usually use this sauce exactly as Gywenth suggests: Drizzled over a bowl of rice, veggies, and tofu with sriracha. Or as the dressing for Chinese chicken salad. To make the dressing simply mix about a quarter cup of the sauce with a tablespoon of sesame oil, three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and a tablespoon of rice vinegar. You can adjust the ingredients according to your taste.

Hoisin Sauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup red miso paste
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add five spice powder and garlic and sautee 30 seconds. Add the syrup, miso and rice vinegar and whisk to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes until thickened. Allow to cool.

Note: Keep sauce in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week. Red miso paste can be found in health food stores and some grocery stores. It can last for several months in the fridge, so once you buy it you can make this sauce several times before it goes bad.


Irish Soda Bread

I was recently in the mood to make Irish soda bread. It's the perfect thing on a relaxed weekend morning. The thing that I like about it is that it is kind of like a giant scone and a loaf of bread all in one, but easier to make than either one of those. I like to add golden raisins to the mix, but you could use any dried fruit or leave it out all together. I also like to serve this with honey butter, though this too is optional. Honey butter is good on all manner of things like biscuits, corn bread, or plain ol' toast. Enjoy this combo with a cup of coffee or tea and you will be a happy camper.

Irish Soda Bread
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 3/4 cup cold buttermilk
1 egg
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 cup golden raisins
Honey butter (see below)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add butter and mix on low until the butter is the size of small peas. Whisk together egg, buttermilk and orange zest together in small bowl. With the mixer on low add the buttermilk mixture. Then add the raisins and mix until just combined. It will be very wet.

Dump the dough onto the parchment lined baking sheet. With floured hands shape it into a round. Lightly cut an X into the top with a serrated knife. Bake for 45-55 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Also, the bread will have a hallow sound if you tap on it.

Serve warm or at room temperature with honey butter if desired.

Honey Butter
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons honey
Pinch kosher salt

Place all items in stand mixer. Beat on medium for a few minutes until well blended and fluffy. Scrap into a bowl and serve.

Note: can be made several days in advance. Store in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before using.



My little man turned three last week. I can't believe how fast these three years have gone! He requested a Lightning McQueen cake for his birthday, which you can read more about below. 

We decided to take him to Disneyland the day before his birthday (while he was still free!). He is a little daredevil. Much of the day consisted of Roy taking him on rides like the rockets, teacups, Dumbo, etc. - all rides that make me sick! Even though I didn't go on all the rides, I was happy to sit back and watch his smiling face. I'm really glad he takes after his dad and doesn't have motion sickness like me!

Now, back to Lightning McQueen. Everything with this boy is Lightning McQueen these days. He watched Cars last summer and it's been his favorite ever since. He was fortunate to get a lot of Lightning McQueen presents for his birthday. 

Now, on to the cake. A quick internet search will give you lots of results for all sorts of fancy Lightning McQueen cakes you can make. There is even a special pan molded in the shape of McQueen so that the actual cake is in the shape of a car. You can then do all this fancy fondant work. Some of these cakes are pretty impressive, but I do not have the time or patience for that. I also didn't want to buy a cake pan that I would use only once.

I decided to make a three layer chocolate cake. I filled it with chocolate custard and frosted it with vanilla buttercream. (Okay, so although I don't want to do a bunch of tedious decorating, I obviously don't mind taking the time to make it taste good). Before I piped the top and bottom edges, I placed edible sugar paper with Cars characters around the sides. This was my first time using this sugar paper, which I got from Whimsical Practicality, and I found it really easy. It peels off of its backing and easily adheres to frosting. I then piped the edges, wrote "Happy Birthday Miles" in red icing, and topped it with a candle that I got from Party City.  It was actually easy, and I'm happy with how it turned out. We invited three of his little friends from church to come eat it with us. While I think Miles might have wanted to eat it all himself, he had fun sharing it and playing with his friends.

Happy birthday my sweet boy! I love every day with you, and I can't wait to see what kind of cake you want next year. 



As always, our tree has a lot of lemons on it. 

And this is our first year growing strawberries in our garden.

With these two ingredients on hand all I needed was a bottle of prosecco and a little sugar to make one of my favorite drinks last weekend. I love having this on a warm, sunny day. It's also very easy to make, and everyone seems to like it. So, try it soon, and enjoy it all summer long. Cheers!

 Strawberry Prosecco Muddle

1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups hulled, chopped strawberries
6 thin lemon slices
1 750 ml bottle chilled Prosecco

Make simple syrup: Place sugar and 1/2 cup water in small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Set aside to cool completely.

Divide strawberries among 6 glasses. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of simple syrup (depending on how sweet you like your drink). Mash the strawberries slightly with a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon. Add lemon slice and a few ice cubes to each glass. Top with Prosecco and serve.

Serves 6.

Notes: Simple syrup can be made a few days in advance. Store in the refrigerator. Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit.  



I love quick breads because, well, they're quick. I case you aren't familiar with the term quick bread - it's essentially any baked good that is leavened without yeast and instead relies on leavening agents such as baking soda or baking powder.  Basically, this means things like banana bread, muffins, and pancakes.

Items such as these are made using the "quick-bread method." Other quick breads like cookies, cakes or biscuits do not use this method, so we won't talk about them today. The quick bread method is super easy. Basically, put all your wet ingredients into one bowl. Mix. Put all your dry ingredients into another bowl. Mix. Then put them all together and mix again. The only "technique" you need to remember with quick breads is to not over mix. As soon as the wet and dry are mixed together you must stop stirring or you'll end up with a tough bread.

Miles and I make so many quick breads together, such as his favorite pancakes, that he even knows the method. He says "where's the dry mom?" and then helps me stir. Then he says "now the wet," and stirs again. "Both together!" he finally says and he helps me stir again. It's cute to see him do it and it's fun to do it with him.

Yesterday we had some very ripe bananas (how many of my recipes start out this way!), so we decided to make muffins. I've adapted this muffin from Food52 (a great site with good weekly emails if you are interested). It's gluten and dairy free making it a good recipe to have in your arsenal whether you eat this way or you know someone who does. But, don't worry, you know I wouldn't give you a recipe for a bland muffin. I've added almonds, shredded coconut and dark chocolate chips to the recipe. They still feel like a treat even though they are healthy.

We only use Lightening McQueen muffin liners these days. 

Banana Muffins

1/3 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup blanched almond flour
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup ground flax seed meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large or 3 small bananas, mashed

1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds, put more for topping
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, plus more for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners.

Whisk the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk the wet ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just a few streaks of flour remain. Add the chocolate chips, almonds, and coconut and stir gently until just combined.

Scoop the mixture into the muffin cups, dividing evenly. Sprinkle with more almonds and coconut. Bake for 20 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pan and continue cooling on wire rack.

Makes 12.

Notes: Some people with gluten allergies don't eat oats. While oats themselves don't contain gluten, sometimes they way they are processed could make them come into contact with gluten.  Look for oats labeled "gluten-free" if you are concerned  about this. Also, look for vegan chocolate chips if you want to ensure they do not contain dairy. 

Store muffins in air-tight container at room temperature for up to one day. Freeze leftover muffins by wrapping each in clear plastic wrap and then storing in zip top bag for up to one month. 

Finally, I'll be honest with you - you have to purchase a lot of these ingredients at health food stores. But they do last for a very long time, so once you have them on hand you can make these over and over again. 


Blood Oranges

I'm very happy when I start to see blood oranges show up in the market at this time of year. I love the deep magenta color. Today I'm sharing a recipe for my blood orange sorbet, but there are lots of ways to use them. They are great to make freshly squeezed juice, or a mimosa if you want to get fancy with that juice. For a different kind of salad, I like to lay slices of them on a plate and top with thinly sliced red onion, basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper. But, whether you use them in a recipe or eat them just as they are, I encourage you to look for some now. Once they're gone we won't see them again until next year, and you certainly don't want to miss out.

Blood Orange Sorbet

3 cups freshly squeezed blood orange juice (from about a dozen blood oranges)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Combine the juice and all the sugar in a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir until sugar disolves. Do not boil. Place in a container, cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours.

Process mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Place in an airtight container in the freezer to firm up for a few hours before serving.

Makes approximately 3 cups, serving 4. 

Notes: Can be made up to three days ahead. 


A New Year, A New Smoothie

December came and went so fast for us. I can hardly believe that it's 2014. I'm not one to make new year's resolutions, but I do tend to eat lighter in January simply because after all the holiday indulgences I want to eat cleanly and simply.

Today I will share with you the latest smoothie I've been drinking. Surprisingly, one of my most popular posts was this one, a post about a smoothie I drank all the time when I was pregnant with Miles. This post was pinned, reposted, viewed, etc. more than any other post I've done.

I will always love making that chocolate smoothie, but I'm really enjoying this one lately, probably because it tastes really good and it's got kale in it making me feel really healthy. But, I promise you won't taste the kale. The pale green color of the smoothie is the only reminder that it's in there. Oh, and this smoothie is loaded with protein from the almond milk and almond butter. It's one tasty and healthy smoothie. Drink up.

Banana Almond Kale Smoothie

1 banana, sliced and frozen
2 tablespoons roasted, salted almond butter
3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup packed roughly chopped kale leaves (stem removed; about 1 large leaf)
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until completely smooth. 

Serves 1